On Friday, February 27th I saw an early screening of Chappie, Sony Pictures Entertainments newest SciFi action film! Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Chappie stands its ground when compared to some his previous films Elysium and District 9.
In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.
The film has a fantastic cast including Dev Patel as Deon Wilson, Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore, Sigourney Weaver as Michelle Bradley, Jose Pablo Cantillo as Yankie/Amerika, Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi, Watkin Tudor Jones as Ninja, and Sharlto Copley as Chappie (via motion capture).
******WARNING! SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!******
The film opens up with a montage of news reports, explaining the nature of this parallel world. In this film, robot drones are being utilized as a police force in South Africa, where criminals run rampant. These drones are powerful, but not completely indestructible. In an earlier scene one drone, that later becomes Chappie, gets repairs and is sent out on a raid of a gang warehouse. During the raid, the drone takes a RPG to the chest and is too damaged to repair.
That raid was when we first meet Ninja, Yolandi, and Yankie. They are a trio of gang bangers who work for a crime lord named Hippo. Apparently Hippo was upset with them, as they had lost or destroyed about 20 million dollars of his drugs. Hippo said they have one week to give him $20M or he'd kill them all. Thats when the raid began.
We later meet Deon Wilson. He's a young programmer who designed the firmware for the robot police force. This is what launched the company he works for into what it is today, so he is highly regarded around the office. Heading that company is Michelle Bradley. She is an executive who manages the office of programmers and keeps everyone in check.
We also meet Vincent Moore, who doesn't agree with his offices decisions regarding artificial intelligence. He deems AI to be "Too unpredictable" and claims that using human beings remotely controlling robots with no AI is much more safe and controlled. While Deon's drones are cheaper to make and more human sized, Vincent's robots are massive, expensive, and have enough firepower to level buildings.
When the Police of South Africa were forced to make a decision of whether they wanted robots with humans at the controls or drones with artificial intelligence, they went with the cheaper and more human sized option. Vincent is angry, and is constantly pushing and pitching ideas for his larger model of robot to Michelle Bradley and the police chiefs.
We also see Deon attempting to design an artificial intelligence that can think on its own. In a way, he is creating an AI that can be born. It would grow and learn on its own and make its own choices, being completely sentient. Deon succeeds in creating the AI, and quickly rushes to his boss Michelle Bradley to beg for testing trials on the drone that took an RPG to the chest during the raid scene. Turns out only the drones battery was damaged, but it melted and fused into its chassis, making it not worth the work to repair it. Deon is denied, but goes against his boss's orders and steals the parts necessary to test his new AI.
The crime trio of Ninja, Yolandi, and Yankie are trying to figure out ways to get money to pay back Hippo. They decide to kidnap Deon, the creator of the drones, and use him to turn the drones off so they can pull off a heist. Of course, they kidnap Deon while he's driving away from work with a van full of stolen robot parts and a sentient artificial intelligence.
Upon seeing the parts, Ninja forces Deon at gunpoint to build the drone, and tells him to program it to work for him and help pull of heists. Deon explains how he cant do that, but makes a deal with Ninja and uses the opportunity to build the drone and install the new AI onto it to test it out. Thus Chappie is born!
When Chappie awakens for the first time, he's scared and hides. The others calm him down and begin teaching him words. Chappie begins to learn words and what things are. He watches some TV and accidentally spills some milk. Its kind of like watching a 5 year old play with things around his house. Just pressing buttons and learning what things were.
While Chappie spends a lot of his time being tricked into committing crimes, Vincent Moore spends most of his time trying to discover a way to sabotage the drones so that his mind controlled robot could take center stage. He goes as far as shutting the drones all down remotely, which causes chaos. Without a police force, the city gets completely taken over in mere minutes by an incredible about of looters and criminals.
It boils down to Chappie being the last remaining drone out there, and is the only hope of stopping Vincent from killing them all. Chappie eventually saves the day, however not without casualties. Chappie attempts to save Deon, who got shot in the battle, by transferring his consciousness into a new robot body.
Thats right! When Deon designed Chappie's AI he knew it had the potential to be smarter than a human being. Throughout the film, Chappie discovers what a "consciousness" actually is and understands it to a point where he is able to move it from one body to another. In the end, Chappie uses a combination of Vincent Moore's neural helmet that is used to control his robot and one of Deon's empty drones in the warehouse to upload Deon's mind and soul from his dying body into a new robot body! Its very Avatar-Esqe!
While the rest of the movie is awesome and great, its this idea that an artificial intelligence can develop superior understanding of human consciousness and discover how it works and how to move it from one body to the next, all within 4 or so days, that really takes the movie to a new level of SciFi greatness!
All in all, Chappie is funny, emotional, well written, and cinematically beautiful. Its one of those movies that when you walk out of it, you can't not talk about it. I leave theaters sometimes and say to myself "Yeah that was great", but then stop talking about it and move on. The ending of Chappie is a conversation starter. It makes you think about what a human soul is, which is pretty heavy stuff to discuss with your friends. The film is a real wild ride, and it had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The one thing that bothered me about this film was the wardrobe and hair choices for Hugh Jackman. Though he's certainly not the most ridiculous in terms of wardrobe and hairstyles in the film, I almost expect the criminals of this film to be dressed crazy and have wacky hair. Its just so weird to see him with a sort-of mullet, a holster and gun, and cargo shorts. The look also definitely does not fit his character, which is a military-gone-programmer of sorts. It looks like they took the wardrobe of a college level programmer, put it on Wolverine, gave him a mullet, and finally gave him a gun and there you go. Besides the distractingly odd choice for Jackmans wardrobe, the film was pretty exceptional!